There once was a hideous horrible ogre named Grýla who lived in Iceland. Her home was in a cave far up in the mountains, where she lived with her troll-husband and her hundreds of troll-children. She was very ugly, with many long tails and feet like a cow. She had ten ears on either side of her head and could hear the sounds of children's complaints from miles away. She kept track of children who didn't do their chores, were mean to other people, or behaved badly. She would to sneak down to the villages and steal away those kids. Then, she fattened them up to turn them into bad kids stew!
Now, in Iceland, during the summertime, the sun shines until almost until midnight and it's morning again very early. But in the wintertime, it gets dark in the late afternoon and the sun doesn't come up until almost noon! So, Grýla waited until winter to collect the bad children - keeping a list of them the rest of the year. She often traveled with her giant mean cat, a scary wicked beast. Jólakötturinn - the Christmas Cat - waited until Christmas Day to eat children who didn't get clothes for Christmas!
Of Grýla's many troll-children, there were thirteen that especially liked the villager's Christmas-time celebrations. They liked Christmas so much that they became known as Jólasveinar - The Yule Lads. They were generally troublesome because they all liked to steal treats and play pranks. Every year, they come down from the mountain, one by one, starting on December 12th. Another Yule Lad arrives each day, through Christmas Eve. Then, starting Christmas Day, they go home, one by one, in the order they arrived.
They are all different in their mischief, so beware of their tricks! They may steal the milk, or empty the cookie jar, even swipe your sparkliest treasures. They can't help it - they're trolls after all. Over the years, they've tried to be more like Santa - if you leave your shoes out by the window, each one will leave a gift on the day they arrive, but only if you're good. Bad children usually get a rotten potato!
The Icelandic Yule Lads
Icelandic Name Pronounced [stek' ya stir]
I‘m the first to arrive every year on December 12th. My name is Stekkjastaur (pronounce like Stek‘ya-stir), but you can call me Sheep Cote Clod - it‘s what my name means in English.
Why that name? Well, I love fresh sheep‘s milk. A sheepcote is where they keep the sheep, and one of my brother trolls says I clomp around because I have stiff knees. But, what does he know? I think I am an expert sheep-sneaker and stole lots of milk when the shepherd wasn‘t looking! Nowadays, not many people have sheep so I sample what I find in your refrigerator. Not cow‘s milk, though, that‘s for my brother troll, Gully Gawk.
I leave every year on December 25th and head back to the mountains in Dimmuborgir.
Icelandic Name Pronounced [Thur' a slay ker]
Halló, my name is Þvörusleikir, and for those of you who don‘t speak Icelandic you pronounce that like „Thur-a-slaker“ or, if you prefer English, it‘s Spoon Licker. I come around every year on December 15th and leave on the 28th.
I like to hang out in the kitchen and snag spoons loaded with whatever yummy concoctions your mixing up. You‘ll probably never find the spoons so you might just want to buy a few extras for the drawer. But, if you are good, I‘ll leave a gift in your shoe. That‘s nice, right?
Icelandic Name Pronounced [Her' tha sket ler]
If you don‘t know me, my name is Hurðaskellir - you say it like „Hurtha Skethler“ or Door Slammer if you say it in English. I love to slam doors and make things go bump in the night. Sometimes, I like to swing the door to make the hinges creak and groan. I‘ll arrive on December 18th and stay until New Year‘s Eve!
Icelandic Name Pronounced [glugga' guy year]
Halló! I am Gluggagægir! You say that like „glook-ah-guy-year“ That means Window Peeper. I arrive on December 21st and will be around until January 3rd. I like shiny and glittery stuff and if I‘m walking by a window, I might see someone I like. I might take it for my collection and it will stay safe then. So if you think you see a face in the window, or something sparkly is missing, not to worry.
Icelandic Name Pronounced [gill' ya gur]
Halló! I am Giljagaur! You say that like „gill‘ya-grr“ but in English I‘m called Gully Gawk. That‘s because I used to hide in the gullys in Iceland, waiting until the cows were milked so I could drink down all the buckets of fresh milk.
Now, I have to sneak into homes and leave the milk out on the counter so it warms up before I drink it. I love fresh milk, but it‘s not nearly so nice when it cold.
I leave on December 26th.
Icelandic Name Pronounced [Pot' a sky fill]
góðan dag, good day! I am Pot Scraper. My name in Icelandic is Pottaskefill and you say it like „pot-a sky fill“. I‘ll arrive on December 16th. I like to be near food and might take pots and pans before you‘ve had a chance to wash them to lick all the cooked-on, gooped-on, slurpy goodness. But, if I return them, they‘ll be easier to wash right? No promises about the countertops, though.
I leave every year on December 29th and head back to the mountains in Dimmuborgir.
Icelandic Name Pronounced [skyr' ga mur]
Halló! I am Skyrgámur! Say „Skeyr-gow-mur“. My name means Skyr Gobbler because I love yummy Icelandic skyr. You know, the thick tasty yougurt that‘s better than anything else in the whole wide world? You should stock up now, because I‘ll be arriving on December 19th and I‘ll be hungry! See you then.
I'll be around until Nýársdagur, New Year's Day - January 1st - so don‘t forget to have lots of the skyr!
Icelandic Name Pronounced [gotta' thever]
If you don‘t know me, my name is Gáttaþefur- you say it like „Gotha thever“ or Door Sniffer if you say it in English. I have a wonderfully large nose and can sniff out goodies and tasty treats from miles away. Cookies, cakes, and all kinds of nammis (yummies) - you can‘t hide them from me. I‘ll sniff them out and eat them all! I‘ll be around on December 22th and stay through January 4th.
Stock up on your holiday goodies for me and I may leave a nice gift in your shoe!
Icelandic Name Pronounced [Stew' fer]
Góðan dag! Good Day! My name is Stúfur, but some people call me Stubby. That’s because I’m not very tall. That’s good, because it makes it easy for me to sneak around the kitchen without being spotted.
I want to get to the baking dishes before they’re washed - I love those crusty baked-on parts! I come around on December 14th and stay until the 27th. I’ll be leaving our mountain home in Dimmuborgir in just a few weeks! You won’t see me, but you can count on me being around. So don’t worry much about doing the dishes quickly then, okay? Takk!
Icelandic Name Pronounced [Ask' a slay ker]
Halló, I am Askasleiker, pronounced „Aska-slaker“ or in English - Bowl Licker! I am the 6th Yule Lad to arrive, coming every year on December 17thand stay until December 30th.
I like to pilfer the food bowls you leave on the floor. Your pet dogs and cats are happy to share, yes? But, you might want to give them a bit extra just in case.
Icelandic Name Pronounced [buke' naw cry gear]
góðan dag, good day! My name is Bjúgnakrækir. It‘s not nearly so difficult to say as it looks - you say it like „buke-naw-cry-gear“. But if you‘d like you can call me Sausage Swiper - that‘s what my name means. I arrive on December 20th and depart on January 2nd.
Smoked sausage, spicy sausage, breakfast or dinner, I love it all! Even turkey sausage if that‘s all you have. Or those tasty little bits you put on pizza. Namm! (that means yum).
So, if you have sausage planned for any meals while I‘m around, you might want to make a back-up plan, yes?
Icelandic Name Pronounced [ket' croaker]
Góðan dag, good day! I am Ketkrókur - you say it like „ket-croaker“. In English, it means Meat Hook. I arrive every year on December 23rd and hang around until January 5th, mostly in the dining room, waiting to swipe some meat. You have comfortable rafters, right?
Smoked, broiled, grilled, or even fried - lamb, beef, turkey, pork - I love it all! If you look away, I might just reach down with my hook and snag a taste right off your plate. It’s okay, you can blame the family dog that maybe he snuck it off the table. Who really believes in trolls, anyway?
Icelandic Name Pronounced [keta' sneaker]
Halló! Gaman að hitta þig (nice to meet you) I am Kertasníkir! It‘s very easy to say - „keta-sneaker“ My name means Candle Beggar (or candle thief). I arrive on December 23rd and stay until January 6th.
I love candles! In the old days would snatch them to eat but they aren‘t made tasty anymore so I collect them because they‘re pretty. I like the scented ones though, especially the ones that smell like food. Maybe you could find that would remind me of the old days and the yummy candles then - some whale fat or fish blubber maybe? Oh, they were so nice! I miss those yummy snacks!